2019 end of year reflections
Welcome to 2020! In keeping with tradition, I’ve written this newsletter to mark the New Year. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.
In Ernest Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feast” – a memoir of decadent Paris in the 1920s – drinks and delicious meals play a starring role. “Write drunk upon a nourishing meal, edit sober” served as a guiding principle in Hemingway’s life and work, and it is relevant for us at Simple Feast when thinking about how we can help solve the challenges of climate change. Allow me to explain:
We could have kicked off 2020 with a critique of the ever-failing, power-obsessed political system that says so much and does so little. Once again in 2019, we saw California ravaged by wildfires. In the past decade or two, late autumn has gone from being rainy season to fire season. In Australia, countless fires burning for months on end have scorched the country to an unprecedented extent. More than 500 million animals are already estimated dead at this early stage of the Australian summer, and the fires alone have emitted two-thirds of Australia’s annual carbon budget according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Unfortunately, the political leaders of Australia and the United States still refuse to take man-made climate change seriously and act accordingly. During his first year as president of Brazil, Bolsonaro has demonstrated that the mining and meat industries are more precious to him than preserving the Amazon as one of the world’s most critical “lungs” and sources of biodiversity. Operating under the slogan “the Amazon belongs to Brazil, not the world”, Bolsonaro is right alongside Trump in the race to be world’s biggest political obstacle to climate policy action – and an obstacle to the progress of general respect for our fellow humans.
These same nations played the leading roles in a disturbingly futile climate summit in Madrid, making 2019 another wasted year in terms of climate action. No new carbon quota system was adopted, we saw no new and ambitious climate targets, and the rich countries didn’t dig into their pockets to help poorer countries with the green transition.
A new prime minister was elected in Denmark in 2019, bringing with her a visionary Minister for Climate, Energy and Utilities, Dan Jørgensen, who presented some of the most ambitious climate targets the world has seen thus far. Unfortunately, not long after, this same prime minister echoed a hopelessly outdated political message that continues to reverberate around the world, saying that the fight against climate change must not cost anything in terms of prosperity, growth or inequality. Welcome to Utopia. Or, rather: Welcome to yet another episode of visionless policy, which we have seen repeated time and again since the scientific consensus on global warming was established in the late 1970s. The democratic election cycle makes it so consistently disheartening to follow politics, and the democratic process has failed horribly when it comes to the climate. There will be no real climate policy action until necessity forces the hand of power-obsessed politicians.
In other words, the serve is back in civil society’s court – which is perfectly fine, because we know that revolutions always start from the ground up. However, we must acknowledge that we all have to make changes – and that it is extremely difficult to change our behavior. That’s why it is so important to implement policies that raise the expense of environmentally destructive life choices – while making it cheaper to “live green”. Of course we must increase taxes on air travel. Of course we must increase taxes on meat – just as we tax tobacco, alcohol and sugar – and lower the sales tax on vegetables. This shouldn’t be a political issue. It’s incredibly naive to imagine that technological advances have any realistic chance of solving the problem alone, especially in the immediate term. And it’s just as naive to believe that, without serious short term incentives, we humans can make the biggest ever change in our behavior in just a decade or two – a change not for ourselves, but for the generations to come. The question is not whether it’s the job of politicians or the people to solve the problem – it is the job of both. However, it would be a huge step in the right direction to replace the pervasive political cynicism with visionary leadership that is willing and able to help make changes for the better.
I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I’ve grown tired of hearing for years that climate policy measures shouldn’t cost anything. Allow me to offer a different and more positive narrative:
The UN Climate Panel’s most important climate report ever was published in 2018, announcing that we have 12 years left to avoid catastrophic consequences of climate change. The report also makes clear that eating more vegetables (cutting down on meat) might be the most effective way to make a rapid difference.
In 2019, the EAT-Lancet Commission – whose members include many of the world’s leading universities and professors – proposed a diet for the future in the “Planetary Health Diet” report. The Planetary Health Diet consists of approximately 90% plants and 10% animal protein. A fairly simple conclusion, but one that holds great potential.
We started Simple Feast to be part of a solution. We started Simple Feast to spark a revolution in the name of health, well-being and the climate, which brings us back to the 1920s and the festivity, cuisine and poetry of Hemingway’s decadent Paris. We are here to show that the revolution can be a celebration filled with well-being and respect for each other and for the planet that is our home. We are here to show that the revolution can taste infinitely delicious and is fully enjoyable. To show that every new door you open can reveal new sensory experiences. To show that you never have to compromise on taste and well-being – au contraire! To show that taking a step into the kingdom of plants can be the most fantastic and energizing celebration – a celebration that gives more for every new door of the kingdom you open. A celebration with so many more facets than the world from which we came. We are here to experiment, push the boundaries and define the future of food, from the ground up.
From the very beginning, we set out to do the impossible. We have never permitted the use of any plastic. Although bioplastics are far from a panacea and recycled cardboard has its limitations, the use of plastics or recycled plastics is a step backwards, not an innovative step forwards. Expect more on that front from us.
When it comes to the food, we are 100% organic. Nothing added, nothing removed from the plants – in other words, no processing of the ingredients apart from natural cooking techniques. There are some rare exceptions, but they are growing even rarer as we continue exploring the kingdom of plants. We have explored, rediscovered and further developed techniques which are, in some cases, thousands of years old. We are here to help as many people as possible on the journey to improved well-being, increased energy, and a life in greater harmony with the planet that is our home and with the farmers who grow our plants. We are here to make a difference and to make the road to a new food culture a celebration unlike any seen before.
Just as with Hemingway, the journey is not without its challenges, errors and setbacks. However, we treat every challenge along the way as an opportunity to improve. Although we’ll never achieve perfection, 2019 was a good year and strengthened our resolve to try out a lot of new things in 2020 and go even further than we ever dreamt possible when starting out at the drawing board nearly five years ago.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to you for reading this letter. And thank you for being a part of the journey. We are delighted to have you along for the ride. Thanks to all of you who write to tell us about the difference we’re making in your everyday lives. Believe me when I tell you that your letters give us added inspiration here at Simple Feast. I hope that you will continue sharing your feedback, both positive and negative. Without your help, we’ll never reach the goal. You and your family are the reason that we’re here. And we will never forget that.
Here’s to a fantastic 2020,
Co-founder and CEO, Simple Feast